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Prime Minister Fiala attends meeting of EU and Western Balkan leaders in Tirana, Albania

CZECH REPUBLIC, December 6 - On Tuesday, 6 December 2022, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala attended a summit of EU Member States and Western Balkan countries in Tirana, Albania. The main topics of the meeting included cooperation in the energy sector in the context of the Russian war in Ukraine, the fight against illegal migration and deepening the integration of the Western Balkans into the European single market. The leaders also made progress in aligning the visa policies of the Western Balkan countries with those of the EU. During the summit, the so-called Tirana Declaration was adopted.

At the summit, the leaders reaffirmed their unequivocal commitment to future membership in the European Union for the entire Western Balkans region. The stability of these countries is also crucial for the security of the Czech Republic. There are also many opportunities here for Czech companies. "I therefore consider it a success that this exceptional summit took place during the Czech Presidency. Over the past months, we have achieved a number of concrete successes during the Presidency on issues that had been blocked at the European level for many years. For example, we have managed to launch accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and to adopt a decision on visa liberalisation with Kosovo," said Prime Minister Fiala after the summit.

The issues of migration, terrorism and organised crime were among the key points of the meeting. The EU has significantly increased its support to the region to address these issues. "To this end, the EU has adopted a new €40 million programme to strengthen border management and is preparing a second programme to increase capacity to fight migrant smuggling and human trafficking. In the area of migration, we have made significant progress in aligning the visa policies of the Western Balkan countries with those of the EU. The more this process progresses, the more the routes that have been used for illegal migration to Europe will be closed," Prime Minister Fiala commented after the meeting.

The Summit also addressed a number of issues related to the impact of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. The Presidents and Prime Ministers of the EU and Western Balkan countries agreed that Russia bears sole responsibility for the current energy and economic crisis. An important outcome of the summit is the €1 billion energy support package for the Western Balkans. This can bring an additional investment of up to €2.5 billion, but also mitigate the impact of the energy crisis on those most vulnerable. The funds will be available from January 2023. €500 million in grants will go to immediate budget support, namely €165 million for Serbia, €80 million for Albania and North Macedonia, €75 million for Kosovo and €70 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina. "We have also invited the Balkan countries to join our platform for joint gas purchases. I believe that this will bring lower gas prices for all of us," said Petr Fiala.

On the side-lines of the summit, an agreement was also reached on the reduction of roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkan countries, which will come into force in October 2023. It was signed in Tirana in the presence of top EU officials by representatives of telecom operators from the region.

At the end of the summit, the leaders adopted the so-called Tirana Declaration.